In the wake of the Wall Street derivatives meltdown that has financially imperiled the country and our space program, Russia has made its intentions to send manned missions to the Moon and Mars clear, according to the following article on Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency's website:
Russia, at least, is getting it right: space represents a commercial opportunity, one that the Russians intend to exploit. Their program is clearly outlined in the article: (1) manned missions to the moon, (2) A permanent base and human presence on the moon by 2030, and (3) a manned mission to Mars by 2040, doubtless in connection with a manned base on the Moon.
But note the interesting statement toward the end of the article by the spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin:
“We are increasing the space budget as the time has come for a technological breakthrough,” Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said by phone. “We need to replace outdated infrastructure and continue to support the flagship status of the space industry.”
Clearly, the Russians are also implying that for these missions to be genuinely feasible, new technologies need to be brought on line and the whole space industry transformed. It is also interesting to note that no specific mention is made concerning what constitutes these new technologies. A hint, perhaps, is afforded by this article, which also appears on the Roscosmos site:
According to this article, the Russian design for a nuclear powered spacecraft should be completed some time next year, but one suspects that this is the tip of the iceberg for Russia. The most important thing here, in my opinion, is Russia's intention, clearly enunciated in the first article, to commercialize space exploration, and specifically in the context of manned moon and Mars missions. This is a far cry from the Russia of the Soviet era, and for that matter, a far cry from the current short-sightedness being exhibited in the United States regarding the long-term benefits that accrue economically and technologically from vigorous space programs, including manned space exploration.
We need, in my opinion, to take a page from Russia's book, and realize that we are quickly outgrowing our beautiful planet, and that the riches of space are there to explore, and to utilize, for mankind's benefit. Tomorrow, China...see you on the flip side!